Mar 18, 2013 / 7:30 pm
OTTAWA - The RCMP say Canadian remains have been found at the site of a blood-soaked January standoff in Algeria between terrorists and gas-plant workers.
The news was the latest indication of possible Canadian involvement in the deadly assault.
But the Mounties refused to say Monday whether there was more than one body, or whether the remains were discovered among the al-Qaida-linked attackers or the hostages killed in the incident.
"The RCMP confirms that Canadian human remains have been identified in Algeria, however, as this is an ongoing investigation, no further information will be given at this time," said Cpl. David Falls.
Neither the Foreign Affairs Department nor the minister's office would comment.
However, Foreign Affairs has said previously that it believed no Canadians or dual nationals were among the hostages, and that a permanent resident of Canada who was at the site was safe and no longer in Algeria.
As a result, the latest development suggests a Canadian presence among the attackers - a militant group said to have been led by North African terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was also behind the 2008 kidnapping of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler.
The Jan. 16 attack on the natural gas complex in a remote stretch of the Sahara Desert led to a four-day siege and the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 militants.
Soon after, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said two Canadians were among the band of militants who took hundreds of workers hostage at the complex.
Hostages who escaped recalled hearing at least one of the militants speaking English with a North American accent.
Other reports said one of the Canadians was co-ordinating the attack, but there was no confirmation.
Sellal said the Canadians were of Arab descent. He cited a militant cell that included men from Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Tunisia, as well as three Algerians.
The Foreign Affairs Department was initially cautious, indicating there was no proof of the claims of Canadian involvement.
RCMP investigators were dispatched to Algiers, but efforts to find out more went slowly because of an apparent lack of information from the Algerian government.
At the time, former members of Canada's spy agency said the Mounties likely would examine documents such as passports as well as corpses of those killed in the melee.
Canadian intelligence officials say dozens of Canadians have ventured abroad - or tried to do so - to take part in violent operations.
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